The network continues to grow and expand. More and more nodes and devices are now active, transporting more data and traffic than ever before around the world 24 hours a day. And this massive growth shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
But something we must consider when discussing all this Big Data is that it does not just represent the new, more flexible and productive ways that end-users are behaving using cloud computing, SaaS and smart mobile devices; it also presents more targets than ever for cyber-attacks. It has become a case of worrying whether or not your organization might one day be the subject of a cyber-attack, bit a case of when – and how prepared you will be.
The changing nature of the network
The internet has become the backbone for supporting vital daily life exercises and activities for billions of people around the world. In essence it has become a critical infrastructure that powers national defense systems, power and energy utilities, transportation networks, healthcare databases, global finance and more. All of which makes it a highly attractive target for malicious individuals or groups.
Consider just one of these critical infrastructure elements, utilities companies. All the management and distribution of electricity, heat, light and water of any major urban area is today controlled from a data center. Racks of servers ensure that people receive the vital basic resources they need to live their lives. And technology is transforming utilities and how we manage them all the time; India has a plan in place to develop 100 smart cities over the next few years, and while smart cities are designed to make life simpler and more convenient for residents, they also create new targets. For example, the number of smart meters monitoring and managing power is forecast to quadruple to 1.1 billion by 2022, which presents a whole new risk; power infrastructure that was traditionally protected by being offline is now connected, and cyber attackers have been quick to take advantage.
So as countries like India continue to develop smart grids for utilities and launch smart city initiatives, where central control of utilities means putting more targets up for potential attack, it is absolutely vital to have the right cybersecurity in place from the beginning.
Leveraging big data to pre-empt attacks
This is the thing about all this data; it can be a powerful tool to be used to our advantage. Organizations like utility companies obviously now store more end-user data than ever making them targets for malicious attacks, but at the same time that data can be used to prevent attacks ever happening. Where Big Data is concerned, the more log data you build up from end-users, devices and other elements of the network, the better chance you have of being able to identify, diagnose and protect against cyber-attacks. Data analytics tools can help identify anomalies and patterns, which can then be compared to other events that are outside of typical behaviour – which indicates a potential hole in the wall and a possible security breach.
Data analytics enable us to monitor all this Big Data in real time, helping us to identify suspicious activity on the fly. This then allows us to create smart security measures and processes that can pinpoint potential threats or attacks. From traffic anomalies on the network to suspicious user behaviour, atypical transactions to unauthorized network access from suspect devices, analytics can be hugely effective in predicting an attack and putting pre-emptive defense measures in place.
Indeed Gartner estimates that by 2016, more than 25 percent of global firms will adopt big data analytics for at least one security and fraud detection use case, up from the current 8 percent. It is a powerful tool that is only going to grow in popularity and use as its effectiveness becomes more and more recognized.
So what to do?
It’s all about being proactive, this cannot be stressed enough. You don’t wait to have an accident, you buy insurance. You don’t wait for your house to have a break-in, you install security measures and a burglar alarm. So when it comes to utility companies that are now part of any country’s critical network infrastructure and continuing to innovate and transform, serious investment in security is required. One survey found that 25 percent of utility companies have already implemented a security strategy based around Big Data, with a further 27 percent saying they are working on one. So the awareness of the threat is clearly there – it is then about proactively doing something about it before it is too late.
By working with the right partner to design and implement a cyber-security strategy that focuses on Big Data and uses analytics to tailor the right proactive responses, utility companies can give themselves the best possible chance of beating the ever-growing trend for cyber-attacks. Because of the ever-changing nature of data and technology, security must become a dynamic process – so work with an expert to get it right now.
Saurabh Sanghoee drives the Orange Business Services “Network-Native Digital Services company” strategy in India. He has over 25 years’ experience across various disciplines in the ICT industry, and Saurabh is passionate about simplifying digital journeys for enterprises. He has represented Orange at various national and international forums as a speaker on topics covering digital disruption, cloud, collaboration, IoT, networks and security. Saurabh has a degree in engineering with a specialization in telecommunications.